By Opio Sokoni
Addressing A Racist System Targeting Black Elected Officials
Government prosecutors had their decision against long time former congresswoman Corrine Brown overturned and they still want to spend taxpayers’ money for another trial. Brown has taken this in stride while still telling the media that God is good all of the time. After she was convicted and sentenced, she spent two years in prison awaiting her appeal. Even there, she was a blessing to others.
Corrine counseled prisoners and said she is still in contact with some of them today. Brown understands more about the abuses of government and the justice system now having gone through this ordeal. She has been the focus of the Florida Star series, “Racist System Targeting Black Elected Officials” https://www.thefloridastar.com/articles/corrine-is-the-latest-victim-of-a-racist-system-targeting-black-officials/
Recently, the new judge on her case, U.S. Magistrate James Klindt, appointed attorneys Richard Komando and Sandra K. Young to represent Brown. However, they are asking to delay the February repeat trial on fraud charges. The lawyers told the judge that “counsel needs more time to review the discovery, review prior trial transcripts, to conduct investigation, negotiate a disposition if possible, and prepare for trial.” The delay is needed “to adequately advise Ms. Brown as to her legal options,” said the lawyers’ motion.
The outspoken congresswoman was convicted in 2017 on 18 counts that included mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and tax charges. Then in May 2021, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Brown’s conviction. It was thrown out in a 7-to-4 decision because an appeals court concluded that the aggressive judge, Corrigan who handled the trial, acted improperly by dismissing a juror who said “the Holy Spirit” told him Brown was innocent. Lesser known people going through the system are used to seeing judges interject themselves into jury deliberations with impunity.
The court’s majority found U.S. District Court in Jacksonville had violated her constitutional right to a unanimous jury verdict when he removed juror #13 and replaced him with an alternate during the panel’s deliberations. They wrote that Judge Corrigan had not had cause to dismiss the unidentified juror whom he had questioned about the role of his faith in deliberations.
“We ask whether Juror No. 13’s religious statements amounted to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he could not render a verdict based solely on the evidence and the law, thereby disqualifying him, despite substantial evidence that he was fulfilling the duty he had sworn to render,” the court’s majority wrote. “They did not.”
The appellate ruling didn’t dispute any evidence presented in the lower trial, however, and prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan in October that they were ready to bring the case to a new jury. Corrigan was more than happy to keep this injustice going against the aging public servant who recently lost her mother. We may have never learned about the Trayvonn Martin case had it not been for the history-making Congresswoman Brown who had represented Jacksonville, Florida since 1992.
Brown’s old attorney told judge Corrigan back in October he is no longer able to represent Brown and he will help her find a new attorney. As part of that announcement, he asked for $42,000 in fines to be returned to her. But the government’s defense team lied saying that the money had already been returned back to victims of the alleged crimes.
In her Oct. 15 motion she said, “It would seem to be a self-evident proposition that when a judgment has been appealed and the judgment has been vacated that the Government could no longer restrain either the defendant personally or her assets which had been seized and held under that judgment.”
In November, prosecutors reversed their lie and now said she was only entitled to a portion of that amount estimated at $12,301. In their breakdown, they stated this includes a special assessment of $1,800 as well as two pools of money — $1,655 and $8,846 — that was collected from Brown but “not yet disbursed to victims”. They stated that the remaining $31,062 has already been disbursed to non-federal victims by the Clerk, and cannot be returned.
Many are wondering how long this will last for someone who has been the best friend of veterans, bought computers for children, and even sponsored students to a totally free educational exchange trip to China. Justice would be a deal that the former Congresswoman could live with that also shows compassion for the good she has done all over this world.